From an early age, I was always passionate about media and film. Growing up, desperately wanted to be an actress, model, and director as a way to escape my horrible reality in the South Bronx. I figured that if I became an actress, I would not have to be that girl. I would not have to be that low-income mixed girl from the Bronx who was statically destined to fail or end up pregnant. To me, being an actress would give me an opportunity to be someone other than myself. Perhaps, even someone better.
I figured that if I became an actress, I would not have to be that girl. I would not have to be that low-income mixed girl from the Bronx who was statically destined to fail or end up pregnant.
I was not too sure of the world, nor was I sure of myself.
For most of my middle school and high school years, I committed myself to pursuing my passion for storytelling. I joined playwriting programs, acted in school performances, and even attended a modeling audition. Yet, once I was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship during my senior year of high school, the entire trajectory of my life had changed. Before learning about the scholarship, I never imagined myself going to college, traveling the world, or even doing human rights work. I had never even heard of the word college until I got to high school. Meanwhile, most kids from wealthier neighborhood know what college they want to apply to by the eighth grade. I was not too sure of the world, nor was I sure of myself. However, the one thing that I have always been sure of was my passion for writing.
I was treated like the black sheep of my family for reasons that I still cannot understand.
I grew up in a violent and strict household. My mother, having struggled with various emotional and mental health issues, would verbally and physically abuse me. Despite being the only one of her six children to excel in school, I was treated like the black sheep of my family for reasons that I still cannot understand. I watched my parents’ marriage fall apart time and time again. I have even found myself as a tool for my mother to exercise her revenge against my father for his heroin addiction and adultery. I had no real means of escaping these circumstances, except when I locked myself in the realm of storytelling for hours at a time.
I have been writing short stories since I was about eleven and these stories have always been about real issues. Not love stories or fairy tales, but real issues such as rape, violence, child abuse, suicide, bullying, etc. Even now, I am still surprised at my ability to think critically about issues around me at such a young age. I guess I owe it to television channels like Lifetime. Once I attended college, it felt as though my dream of becoming an actress and director had quickly become a dream deferred. I was under the impression that I had to obtain a degree and get a “real job”
I was told that my dreams were unrealistic and that I would never be able to support myself financially. I have never been interested in having a job or even a career. I hated the idea of a 9-5 job and still do. I consider myself a free spirit–someone solely motivated by my passions. In college, I struggled to pick a major and ended up settling for something that I was good at: writing. I majored in English with a concentration in writing and spent my entire undergraduate career traveling, collaborating with student leaders, organizing cultural events, discussions, social demonstrations, and even working behind the scenes of higher education administration as a student representative on several administrative committees.
I was tired of being the leader of marginalized students of my campus. I was tired of carrying the weight of underrepresented students on my shoulders. I was tired of feeling unheard.
While in college, I struggled with the concept of self love and self care, something I wish I had known about in college. Before I knew it, these issues had taken a tole on my mental health. I had become that stereotypical angry “black girl.” After hard battles and pushback within my predominantly white campus community, I decided to completely fall back. I was tired of being the leader of marginalized students of my campus. I was tired of carrying the weight of underrepresented students on my shoulders. I was tired of feeling unheard. I had become utterly jaded and irritated. Immediately after the election of Donald Trump, I fell into an odd state of depression and indifference. It was the first time I had cried in a long time. It was the first time I had felt legitimately afraid of the future and the unknown. It was the first time that I had said, “Fuck this” I tried to burry my concern for human rights somewhere else, but it always made its way to the surface. Before the end of my senior year, I decided to apply for Humanity in Action, with the hope of having my perception of social justice transformed. I can honestly say that this fellowship has informed my sense of self and my world view.
I realize that my role within the movement is to uplift the narratives about who people are and the beauty they possess.
I have learned so much from the John Lewis Fellowship. From the power of storytelling to the intricacies of using the law to “dismantle the master’s house,” I realize that we all have a role to play. There is no single answer for how to heal the world. I recently came across a quote by Einstein that says, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” It made me realize that, although I may feel misunderstood, at least I am on the right track in terms of the ways in which I analyze social ills. It has been a pleasure to engage in collective learning and thinking as we try to formulate solutions to the problems that matter to us. I realize that my role within the movement is to uplift the narratives about who people are and the beauty they possess. After spending a month engaging with fellows from all over the U.S and Europe, I realize that although we are all different, we are still connected. I realize that I have been blessed with enough foolishness to believe that I can make a difference in this world, so that I can do what others claim cannot be done– bring justice and kindness to the world. I realize that I am here to raise consciousness and plant seeds in the minds of the youth. This fellowship has reinforced the importance of intentionality and accountability both of the oppressed and the oppressor. We must hold ourselves accountable as well as each other if we want to seek justice. To me, justice will always be a verb. I will always try to strive for what is just and what is wise. I will always remind myself of the question, “How can we turn theory into action?”
I am currently working through this idea of “inherited trauma” something that Dr. Hooker introduced to us during his lecture. As the program comes to an end, I still have many questions on how to overcome or at least manage this trauma. I cannot help others if I cannot help myself. For now, my writing is truly all I can turn to. Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to use my writing to change the narratives built around people from marginalized communities. This is something I still want to do because it empowers my people and allows us to claim ownership over history. For me, writing is an intellectual way of bleeding.
For me, writing is an intellectual way of bleeding.
When I’ve struggled to say how I feel writing was always there for me. Growing up, entrapped by darkness and fear, writing was there for me. As my first lover and friend it would walk me through desolate times. Since the age of eleven, I have found no greater companion. No greater source of expression or clarity. Writing has birthed me. Writing has empowered me. Writing has aroused me. Writing has become my sanctuary where I erupt words that spill out heavy flows of affliction, my ceaselessly obscure thoughts, and the unrelenting commitment of my overzealous heart. I bleed the blood of my ancestors. Of all the things they carried, but before they parted the earth, they passed down this anomalous gift with love and grace–allowing me to place my spirit on paper. Engulfing me with ability to leave an indelible legacy behind like an angelic troublemaker should.